More perch, fewer walleye.
The Lake Erie Committee has recommended a total catch limit of slightly more than 12 million pounds of yellow perch for the 2009 season, an increase of about 1.85 million pounds from last year.
Meeting last week in Ypsilsanti, Michigan, the bi-national committee of fishery managers from Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada also recommended a total allowable catch of 2.45 million walleye for the lake, a decrease from last year’s TAC of 3.6 million. (Yellow perch are allocated in pounds, while walleye are allocated by number of fish.)
Committee members said they based their decision on what they see as the current strength of yellow perch stocks in the lake and on “poor or moderate” walleye stocks the past several years, with the exception of 2003.
“Stock assessment of yellow perch showed increases in all areas of Lake Erie relative to 2008,” a prepared statement from the committee says. “Therefore, the committee recommended an increase in allocation of yellow perch to 12.012 million pounds in 2009 from 10.16 million pounds in 2008.”
A formula that determines the allocation among the five jurisdictions along the lake sets Ohio’s portion at 5.277 million pounds. Last year it was 4.389 million pounds.
Other jurisdictions and their perch allocations for 2009 and 2008 are:
• Michigan – 0.186 million pounds ( 0.128 million pounds in 2008)
• New York – 0.142 million pounds (0.098 million pounds in 2008)
• Pennsylvania – 0.693 million pounds ( 0.684 million pounds in 2008)
• Ontario – 5.714 million pounds (4.861 million pounds in 2008)
In 2008, the actual harvest of yellow perch was about 8.33 million pounds, or 82 percent of the TAC, the committee said.
A management plan for yellow perch is being developed and the committee expects to have it completed this year.
The harvest of walleye last year reached 2.917 million fish, about 77 percent of the TAC.,
This year, Ohio will be allocated 1.252 million walleye; Ontario 1.055 million, and Michigan 0.143 million. Walleye fisheries in eastern Lake Erie remain outside the allowable catch management area.
The committee’s walleye task group, which includes scientists and field biologists, reported that walleye hatches were weak in 2002, 2004, and 2006. It described the hatches in 2005 and 2005 as “below average” and the 2007 hatch as “moderate.”
“The last above average walleye year class in Lake Erie was the colossal hatch in 2003,” the group reported and the walleye fishery continues to be reliant on that “ever diminishing 2003 year class.”
The committee expects walleye in the lake to decline from 18.4 million this year to 15.7 million in 2010.
“The walleye and yellow perch fisheries of Lake Erie naturally fluctuate from year to year based on the success of annual spawning and survival,” said Mike Morencie, committee chairman who represents the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. “…the committee is deeply concerned about the frequency of weak walleye year classes during the past decade. As the committee did last year, we advise constituents that the outlook for higher walleye catch limits is unlikely for the foreseeable future. Although the outlook for the yellow perch fishery is solid for 2009, the committee is cautious about the future strength of that fishery.”